Civilisations die without trade

The last Viking settlements may have vanished after walruses moved to safer shores to avoid being hunted for their ivory, a new study suggests.

Norse communities founded by Erik the Red flourished in Greenland for 500 years but then disappeared suddenly in the late 15th century leaving towns and villages abandoned.

Now scientists at Cambridge University think they have solved the mystery. The Norse economy relied so heavily on the ivory trade that when supply and demand slumped they had no other way to make a living and were forced to leave.

Useful news from history, no? The importance of trade?

16 thoughts on “Civilisations die without trade”

  1. Maritime Barbarian

    Rather, the importance of a diversified economy.
    Over-reliance on one sector or even one company spells problems later.
    Take Finland. 25% of its exports were Nokia phones, not many years ago. The company missed the smartphone trend, virtually vanished, and the whole country suffered. Didn’t help being in the Euro either. No devaluation.

  2. I thought it was the end of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) which meant Greenland became Whiteland and farming impossible.

    That would mean that the MWP was a good deal warmer than today even with much lower CO2, thus rather scotching the CAGW hypothesis. No wonder they want an alternative explanation made up.

  3. Wasting your time pitching that to the WOMIs Tim. Let alone the scum of BluLabour and the SCS.

    They know best. “I am the Walrus”.

  4. No mention of payment of taxes here. Did they pay any, or enough? If not, that is the probable reason for the failure. I have pointed this out many times about the island secrecy jurisdictions to our south.

  5. The Meissen Bison

    Mr Ecks: “I am the Walrus”.

    Now don’t be silly: you are the Ecksmen (or one of them).

    Goo goo ga joob.

  6. Bloke no Longer in Austria


    the Vikings in Greenland were so rich that they all had SUVs, but the local government introduced charging zones and made them switch to eco-friendly buses, which is why the Little Ice Age happened.

  7. bilbaoboy on beach in Cadiz

    In-jokes for the over fifties, good explanations for climate history and a chance to pee all over Musk on an adjacent thread.

    That and a cold bottle of manzanilla before lunch……

  8. TMB–The quote marks should give the clue that is a general –if slightly poetical–indictment of WOMI evilidiocy and arrogance rather than a me quoting myself. With quotation marks.

  9. My favourite trade makes you rich story.

    I was reading a history of 16th century India. Control of different regions ebbed and flowed. At one point a ruler created a new law: if travellers through a region were attacked then either the locals offered up the dead bandits, or some of the locals would be executed. (So preying on traders and offering sanctuary to bandits became bad business models) Suddenly the roads were much safer and a period of prosperity burst forth as they could scarcely imagine.

  10. My understanding was that demand for Walrus ivory declined once elephant ivory became available, rather than that the walrus declined
    There was some farming in Greenland but insufficient to maintain the standard of living. And it was definitely warmer- the fact that settlements were exposed by receding ice tells you it was warmer when the settlements were settled.

  11. Jack Hughes beat me to it!
    But the Medieval Warm Period was abolished, those ‘scientists’ at UEA all agreed in an email!

    NB Over on CT is a nice comment alluding to Tom Lehrer. A man fortunately ahead of his time, can you imagine a modern public rendition of “National Brotherhood Week” ? 🙂

    I don’t agree with the OT there though, I get the whole private property/libertarian thing, but suppose someone starts a social media platform whose logo is red field, white circle, black icon with rotational symmetry…content restricted to variations on….you get the idea.
    There must come some barrier upon which legal intervention is justified?

  12. Quadruple threat:

    ” The fashion for walrus ivory may also have dimmed by the end of the Middle Ages, while the Black Death which was sweeping Europe is likely to have wiped out huge numbers of customers.

    Finally a period of extremely cold weather known as The Little Ice Age also made sea navigation tricky at the end of the Medieval period.”

  13. They failed to adapt to changed climate circumstances whereas their neighbors to the north and west ”skraelings” did splendidly with their kayaks and fishing. Were the Vikings following protoEU regulations?

  14. Harry Haddock's Ghost

    Just think, if only there had been a big state, it could have handed out benefits to the poor Vikings, rather leave them to the ravishes of market forces, and those settlements would still be there.

    They would, of course, be drug and alcohol riddled shit holes, condeming endless generations to state servitude and oppression, and the abuse of hopelessness, but they would be *there*.

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